Stage Hands is multimedia artist/producer Brandon Locher and drummer/producer Gerald Mattis. On Feb. 10 music and art archive My Idea of Fun will released their self-titled debut LP in vinyl and digital formats. Since 2006 Brandon Locher has quietly disseminated more than 60 releases under various monikers and in various mediums. Stage Hands is the most recent iteration of Locher’s creative output, formed in 2013 with longtime friend Mattis. Locher and Mattis create a self-contained cosmos ruled by their own theories, laws and forces, giving way to a polychromatic world with plenty of terrain to explore.
Brandon was kind enough to answer a few of our questions.
Tell me about your record. What do you want people to know about it?
Gerald Mattis and I started Stage Hands in late 2013 and immediately started working together on writing and recording material for the project. In October 2013 I released an LP called ‘It Happens Outside’ from my ongoing project The Meets. This project featured a self-produced sound collage ensemble of over 20 live recording musicians playing freely expressive melodies and improvisational noise over an electronically created bed of sound collage tapestry. While this project was an amazing studio recording exercise for myself it wasn’t really practical to tour and take on the road with so many different members and collaborators. Gerald and I have been friends since high school, meeting at local DIY shows in Johnstown, PA in the early 2000s. Fast forward 13 years later and Gerald and I started talking about starting a new band together. Writing and producing this album took us 6 months to complete. Luckily working and collaborating with Gerald feels like a very effortless process. I feel like we can collectively understand one another’s vision and execute our work together by staying in tune with our natural artistic progression and developed workflow. I feel like personally after writing and self-producing over 30+ music releases over the past 10 years I really started to learn and understand what works and what doesn’t very quickly in the creative process. Our self-titled track “Stage Hands” is compositionally constructed around samples of my friend John Livingston playing the piano. Conceptually it feels like we become ventriloquists, while running the lighting rig, and meanwhile working backstage as the prop manager to make sure everything in the production is running smoothly. I feel like the role of a producer is to have the vision and understanding of how all of these abstract elements and bits will add up to something much larger and ultimately tell a compelling story. I think this is a reason we liked and decided on the band name Stage Hands. Sometimes music making to me feels so much larger than just organizing sound and throughout the process trying to perfectly execute a premeditated vision while having an open conversation with experimentalism and chance. The album also features a few guest appearances from friends Sean Jackson (playing several additional synth lines), John Livingston (samples cut from an improvisational field-recording), Jon Beard (drum engineering on “#unabomber”), and The One and Only Matt Miller wrote lyrics and sings on “#unabomber”. The cover photograph was taken by Ian Rummell.
What was the process of writing it? What’s your writing process in general? Etc.
When we started the band we started working on our live set and studio recordings simultaneously. During our first few band practices we ended up just talking and conceptualizing how we wanted our music to sound so even before we started making any noise it at least had some direction. Once we have a general idea of the type of music that we are trying to create we basically just build it from the ground up. At first we seemed to focus on trying to develop a cohesive sound palette by creating sounds and samples that we found interesting. Right away I started making field-recordings of organic sounds that was then digitally sampled and manipulated by using Ableton Live, Maschine, and AudioMulch running into two Kaoss Pads for additional effect processing. I would set up and record several improvisational situations using analog synthesizers or even acoustic percussion instruments to then make sample banks that I’d then import into this software. Stage Hands is actually the very first musical project that I used a laptop as my primary instrument. Before using this gear I relied very heavily on meticulous sound collage work. Sound collage is still a very important and necessary element in the creation of our music but using these new controllers and gear has allowed me to develop complex possibilities to re-conceptualize and create something spontaneous and new with our music in a live setting.
Tell me about where you live.
I am currently living in Manhattan with my sister and photographer Olivia Locher. Luckily my sister is also my best friend and I will help assist with her photography projects while she always lends a helping hand if needed in my creative projects. It’s a nice support system we have and our relationship really helps me stay focused and dedicated to my practice and craft.
What do you hear right now?
It’s 9:00 AM and the apartment is completely quiet. Mostly I hear the sound of the refrigerator with distant traffic from outside. I just remembered how last summer I used to occasionally place a set of binaural microphones in the windowsill and run the signal into a stereo. Basically it amplified the sound outside the apartment so it sounded as thought it was all happening inside. It was always interesting to listen to whatever was happening right outside these walls while still being slightly and visually displaced from these actions. Thinking about this little experiment makes me want to do it again soon.
What music did you listen to last? What was the last book you read?
Last night as I fell asleep I listened to an album called Wind by Gigi Masin and the last book I read was Records Ruin the Landscape by David Grubbs.
Who did you last talk on the phone with? What did you talk about?
My friend Laura from Pennsylvania about making plans and meeting up today.
Did you grow up in a musical home? Who first gave you music?
I didn’t necessarily grow up in a “musical” home although my father would occasionally play the drums, piano, and acoustic guitar and my mother sings and always had an amazing voice. It wasn’t until early middle school that I really connected and started to identify with music when I discovered alternative bands like The Smashing Pumpkins. Luckily a few years later I found out about some local DIY shows happening in the Johnstown, PA area and found a community of friends that had similar interest in music and art.
Who are your heroes? Musical or otherwise.
Arthur Russell is my number one musical hero. His music feel so sincere and pure to me and it’s really inspiring how much amazing music he recorded in his lifetime. Every time I listen to Arthur’s music it always feels so contemporary and completely timeless.